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Pittsburgh Pirates’ second baseman Josh Harrison has been out since April 15 with a broken bone in his left hand. He will be returning sometime next week. In his absence, the Pirates have gone 13-13. Right now, they are a half game back of first place in the NL Central.
When Harrison returns, he will assume his starting job at second base and bat leadoff. The Pirates’ offense hasn’t exactly struggled without him, but the they will be happy to see him back. He is a clear upgrade over the likes of Adam Frazier, Sean Rodriguez, and Max Moroff. His presence in the clubhouse is a plus.
Someone will be sent down to AAA when Harrison comes back. Who might that be? Three players come to mind as possibilities.
It is no secret that Frazier has been struggling with the Pittsburgh Pirates this year. He is hitting .231/.286/.308 with two home runs and two doubles in 113 plate appearances. His wOBA is .266 and wRC+ 65. His strikeout rate is up about five percent from last year (12.6 to 17.7) and walk rate down about two percent (7.9 to 6.2).
Frazier is making worse contact at the plate than he did last year too. His hard contact rate is down from 27.5 percent last year to 21.2 percent this year. Frazier has always mashed grounders but his ground ball rate is up almost 10 percent from last year (47.9 to 56.6). Frazier has gone from from a slightly below average hitter to a terrible one. He has had his chances but simply looks lost right now.
In 31 plate appearances, Moroff is hitting .231/.258/.467 with two home runs and a double. He has struck out 15 times (48.4 percent). His sample size is obviously tiny. Last season, we saw a similar start to Moroff’s season in the bigs. He barely got any playing time and struggled to make contact when he did. When he finally saw a few chances, Moroff thrived.
Moroff and Frazier are slightly similar players. Both primarily play second base but can shift around to multiple positions. Both have shown flashes of potential. Moroff is a better fielder with more power. Frazier makes contact more often. Neither player really jumps off of the screen. They are young utility players at this point in their careers. If I had to guess, I would say that Moroff has the higher ceiling.
Osuna has barely gotten a taste of the majors this year. He has two home runs and a double in 16 plate appearances. In AAA, he won International League Player of the Month in April.
Osuna is an interesting player. Last year with the Pirates, he wasn’t overly impressive but like Frazier and Moroff, had his moments. Since Spring Training this season, Osuna has done nothing but hit. Right now it is hard to tell how much he has really improved. He deserves a chance to show us.
The only knock against Osuna is his glove. The Pirates have tried to make him more versatile in the field as he can play first, third, and the corner outfield spots. That said, he is well below average everywhere in the field. David Freese is much better in the corner infield spots and Rodriguez is much better in the outfield. If Osuna is up here, he will need to hit. So far he has mashed.
Who goes down?
Frazier needs to go. He has been given almost all of the opportunities in Harrison’s absence and hasn’t panned out. There will be no spot for him on the team with Harrison coming back.
When Harrison returns, the bench should be Freese, Rodriguez, Moroff, Osuna, and Elias Diaz. Moroff is and upgrade over Frazier with the glove and has more upside with the bat. Osuna is the best hitter of the three right now.
Frazier can work on finding his swing with everyday at bats in AAA. In short, Moroff and Osuna should now have their chance to show what they can do at the big league level.
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